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Rick Ross, “The Don” [Behind-the-Interview of XXL‘s July/August Cover]

Rick Ross Minus the Shades:

He goes into talking about the Def Jam thing. And me and Vanessa discussed the idea that Ross can kind of be a character—in a way that any entertainer can be, even if that’s who you are, it’s you amplified. So it’s just being able to figure out parts of who Ross really is. So that’s how you’ll see in the interview. I asked him what he learned from his parents, so he talks about when he was younger he always remembers his mom saying, “Don’t leave any money on the table.” So he tells me how that relates to the way he negotiates as much as he can on his behalf. And he’s like, “You really just got to believe. Five years ago we set out to do this, and look where we’re at now. Everyday I’d looked in the mirror and said, “You’re going to be rich, and you’re going to make it.’” At that point he brought up his father and he was like, “If my father could see me now. He wouldn’t be able to believe it.” I felt like it was a good moment.

We sat for like an hour and a half talking and he answered everything, he didn’t dodge anything.

I think that with each album and every album cycle, artists have their talking points that they want to hit, and Ross is no different. Sometimes when you’re asking a question and he’s really not answering it, he’s kind of just talking about what he wants to talk about, but he does it in an entertaining way or a polite way where you just realize, “Damn, I’m just going to have to eat that question ‘cause he’s not going to answer that.”

I think with most rappers, especially if you keep comparing rapping to boxing—once you lose your bravado, a slippery slope can occur and next thing you know you’re falling off and sliding or whatever. So for some of those guys, Ross included, they don’t want to entertain answering a question that makes them look vulnerable.

But as I said, the sunglasses weren’t on, it wasn’t a lot of distractions, nobody came—it was just he and I. He was open to be asked anything, whether he would answer it the way I wanted him to, that’s another question. All in all, I thought it was great. I wish I‘d heard some music, so I could’ve asked a couple other questions to see what was on his mind.

Still Burns CDs:

For people who never wanna give Ross credit, whether they think he’s fake or whether they think that the correctional officer’s past doesn’t jive with who he is now, unequivocally, he always gets props for his beat selections. We ran out of space on the page [in the magazine], but I literally asked him from A to B, how do you get beats and how do you make your records. He’s like he has Spiff TV, who used to do all the videos, and now he’s kind of moved over to an A&R role. So Spiff gets him beats, Pucci gets him beats, he has his A&R’s at Def Jam, A&Rs at Warner that get him beats—you know he’s a CD guy. He gets beats, burns them into CDs, puts the headphones on, smokes an L, and just zones out and listens to beats. Once he picks a beat and he’s feeling it he freestyles his hooks. If you go through Spiff’s phone, there’ll be tons of hooks on his phone. And then once he does that he really concentrates and writes his rhymes. And then obviously he signs producers, so he has like Beat Billionaire and other dudes that grants him access to their better beats. But then, he’s working with people like Dr. Dre and Pharrell and other producers now.

As we’re wrapping up and shit, I’m like, “I got to hear one record on it,” and he kept going, “Nah.” He’s keeping the album really close to his chest; Ross is real self aware, he knows what we’re thinking, too. It’s a legacy album for him, and you know he’s really confident. He knows what the conversation is going around about him, and each record he puts out. We even talked about him being an underdog—like he was the underdog before “BMF.” You know, they came out on mixtapes first and then he saw what records were popping, take those, add other records, and those lead up to the albums. But for this time there’s an event—we talked about the press conference, and you’re not the underdog. So there’s some backlash coming to it and—he talked about being very steadfast and sticking to his formula and sticking to his script. You’ll see with “So Sophisticated,” it’s building now. The Usher record, “Touch’N You,” may not be building, but I don’t think he’s dismayed by that, I think he knows what he has in the clip.


The artist in [Ross] was like, “I was smoking too much weed and drinking too much champagne. That’s what happened.” That’s the bravado. But then I asked him the same question in a different way, and he shifts in his seat and said, “Damn, you know what’s crazy? I used to be an athlete. I can’t understand how that would happen,” and he talked about the strokes and he knows he’s a big boy. He’s like, “I’ll do an hour show and I’ll be sweating from working, but it’s nothing like I’m tired or I feel any kind of way. I don’t understand what happened, but I never got six hours of sleep.” At that point, he got there at 9:15 p.m., we ended up starting the interview at 10:45 p.m., it ended around like 12:15 a.m., and then he started playing some music. By the time I was leaving the crib, which—he has another crib that’s way more inspirational, he said, that’s not his main property in Miami. It was around 1 a.m. when I left. He was back in the kitchen with Dre Films and they were going over the video and watching it again, and everybody saw it the next day. It was the video where he revealed the album cover. So even after doing all of that, he was going over the stuff with Dre Films, he was very involved. After that he said he was going to record. So for all I know, I left at 1 a.m., by 2 a.m. I was knocked out and back at my hotel room. He could’ve gone on worked until 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. in the morning. He definitely works hard and he talked about that with Omarion. Like part of the reason he got Omarion is ‘cause he kept cooking up records. Ross was really emphatic about the fact that within a 45-day period he was going to drop Self Made Vol. 2, God Forgives, I Don’t, and then Meek Mills’ debut album; he was like “What label does that nowadays?” For him to do that he’s not only consistently recording, but he’s also consistently in marketing meetings and planning and strategizing on the phone. So you’re like, “Damn, this is why you had the health scare, homie.” [Laughs.] But I felt like he honestly addressed it and he’s still trying to figure out what the solution is to avoid that from happening.


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